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Should I translate school grades?
Thread poster: Marc Christian

Marc Christian  Identity Verified
Dominican Republic
Local time: 17:33
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jul 31, 2015

Hi,

I'm working on a literary translation from German to Spanish (the story takes place in the German Democratic Republic of the 1960s), in which one of the characters is an outstanding high school student.
In the text, it is mentioned that his average grade is a 1.1.
My research on the topic reveals that there were 5 grades in Socialist Germany, 5 being the worst and 1 the best grade.
The target readers are Latin Americans (I'm sending this to Mexico, where the high school grading system ranges from 1 to 10, where 10 is the best and 1 the worst grade).

Here's my question:
Should I "translate" the grades so as to make them understandable to the target audience?

I already calculated that a "1.1 out of 5" from Socialist Germany would equal "9.98 out of 10" in Mexico, but I fear that I'll be taking out cultural content by localizing this.

Should I leave it up to the reader to find out that 1.1 is actually great, contrary to his/her own local grading system?

Or would an asterisk leading to a footnote be the solution?
*[Note by translator: Socialist Germany used a grading system ranging from 1 to 5, where 1 was the highest attainable grade.]

I have until 10 p.m. tonight to wrap this up, so quick help is greatly appreciated!

Kind regards,

Marc


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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:33
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
Footnote Jul 31, 2015

To confirm, this is a work of fiction? Unless you already have a substantial number of footnotes, I would leave it as 1.1 and add a footnote with your explanation.

If for some reason you're trying to reduce footnotes, then I'd convert this to a number easily understood by your readers.

I would not leave this as 1.1 without a footnote.


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 15:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
In the text Jul 31, 2015

An alternative would be to add the explanation as part of the text, if it can be done seamlessly without betraying the style. In other words, making it seem as though it is part of the original story; “he had an average of 1.1, nearly the highest grade possible.”

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Marc Christian  Identity Verified
Dominican Republic
Local time: 17:33
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Preston Decker Aug 1, 2015

Hi Preston,

Thank you for your reply. It is a verisimilar piece.
The text I'm working on is an extract and the footnote would actually be the only one in it.

I'll probably put in the footnote.


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Marc Christian  Identity Verified
Dominican Republic
Local time: 17:33
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@GoodWords Aug 1, 2015

Hi GoodWords,

Thank you for your reply.

I like the idea of subtly inserting the explanation into the text!
Didn't think of that either; I'm experienced in other fields of translation, but completely new to literary translation.

Seeing that you're writing from Mexico:
I'm trying to earn a spot at a workshop organized by the Goethe-Institut, which will be held in Guadalajara and Mexico-City.
Should I make the cut, we'll meet the author and do some literary exercises in translation.

If YOU were the author (the question goes for *Preston Decker* as well), would you rather see a slight modification to your source text (knowing that it will make it seamless and understandable to the reader), or would you prefer to find a footnote (that shows the translator did his homework to ensure [cultural] reading comprehension)?


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 15:33
German to English
+ ...
Since it's literary Aug 1, 2015

.. you might get away with translating the grade. I translate a lot of school material (transcripts etc.) from German since I'm a certified translator, and when it's an official translation, the grades don't get translated, but there can be a footnote. The only change is from commas to decimals (1,1 becomes 1.1).

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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:33
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
Can you consult with the author? Aug 1, 2015

Marc Christian wrote:

Hi GoodWords,

Thank you for your reply.

I like the idea of subtly inserting the explanation into the text!
Didn't think of that either; I'm experienced in other fields of translation, but completely new to literary translation.

Seeing that you're writing from Mexico:
I'm trying to earn a spot at a workshop organized by the Goethe-Institut, which will be held in Guadalajara and Mexico-City.
Should I make the cut, we'll meet the author and do some literary exercises in translation.

If YOU were the author (the question goes for *Preston Decker* as well), would you rather see a slight modification to your source text (knowing that it will make it seamless and understandable to the reader), or would you prefer to find a footnote (that shows the translator did his homework to ensure [cultural] reading comprehension)?


If I were the author I'd like to get a note from the translator regarding any changes to the source text. Any possibility you can forward a note to the author?


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:33
Member (2014)
English to German
I prefer this suggestion Aug 1, 2015

GoodWords wrote:

An alternative would be to add the explanation as part of the text, if it can be done seamlessly without betraying the style. In other words, making it seem as though it is part of the original story; “he had an average of 1.1, nearly the highest grade possible.”


As it is a literary text it may only need an extra sentence or two, maybe as part of a conversation between the characters.


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Ana M Santana  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:33
English to Spanish
+ ...
This definitely needs a translator's note Aug 1, 2015

Given the fact that your text is part of a literary work, you do not need to write the equivalents directly in the body of the text you are translating. But you definitely must explain any considerations about the differences in the evaluation systems that may be relevant to the understanding of the idea where you are at, because to me a 1.1 average student is a very bad one, being 5 the top, but in the US the top average is 4. I think that in the GDR system, the 1 to 5 system was the opposite than the one I used long ago in Cuba, being 1 the best and 5 the worse, but I am not sure about it. So, your note must have into account the public to which your translation is addressed for your note. Anyway, I do agree with those who tell you not to translate in the body of the text, not to break the smoothness of the style and other considerations.

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 22:33
English to Croatian
+ ...
Translator's note Aug 1, 2015

What I do in such instances is add a note saying grading system is from 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest, and 10 being the highest grade.

Hope this helps.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:33
Russian to English
+ ...
Hi, wouldn't Aug 2, 2015

1.1 be more than 1, though, something like A plus?

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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:33
Dutch to English
+ ...
Excuse me? Aug 2, 2015

Gabriele Demuth wrote:

GoodWords wrote:

An alternative would be to add the explanation as part of the text, if it can be done seamlessly without betraying the style. In other words, making it seem as though it is part of the original story; “he had an average of 1.1, nearly the highest grade possible.”


As it is a literary text it may only need an extra sentence or two, maybe as part of a conversation between the characters.


As an avid reader of fiction, the thing I and I'm sure many many other readers would like to believe is that literary translations stay as close as is humanly possible to the original. Introducing explanations and a 'mere two sentences' in a dialogue between the characters is IMO blasphemy and amounts to violating the text.
The *only* acceptable way would be to introduce a translator's or editor's note (or maybe an introduction), explaining in brief the grading system. That is if there is not context to give readers an inkling of that system in the work itself. I believe the system out of five with 1 the best is still in use, at least in some places here in Germany.

And I'm sorry if this offended anyone, but to me it's like drawing over a painting because 'it's not quite clear'. Inappropriate.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 03:03
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
No additional explanation needed Aug 3, 2015

From what you have posted, it is clear to the reader in Spanish that the alluded person is an outstanding student, so it would be easy for the reader to infer that he would do well in school, and his grades would be top notch. In other words, a grade of 1.1 earned by an outstanding student, will automatically convey that the grade of 1.1 represents excellent school performance. This despite the fact that a different grading system is common in Brazil.

Therefore, in my opinion, neither a footnote nor any additional explanation is required here, and you can trust the reader's intelligence that he would correctly understand the grade of 1.1 as a good school grade.

I am with Kristen Bodart here that translation should be as close to the original as possible, and the translator should keep himself consciously invisible in the interaction between the original author and his reader in the translated language. If the translator imposes his views and interpretations too much into the text, he is not doing a translation, but writing a commentary on the original text. The best translator is the one who is most self-effacing, particularly in literary translations.

[Edited at 2015-08-03 01:47 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 22:33
English to Polish
+ ...
... Aug 5, 2015

Whether you include a footnote or otherwise explain the grades is a matter of secondary importance, but the German (DDR) flavour should definitely be preserved.

I always ask the proponents of full domestication and disguise of translation whether Obama is Queen or Bloomberg was a Lord (Mayor).


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:33
Member (2014)
English to German
B. might be right? Aug 6, 2015

That has also occurred to me that there might be no need for translation, footnote or explanation.

But at the end of the day it depends on the text and the author.


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